Foreclosures increase in August across Broward, Palm Beach

After declining for 14 straight months, new foreclosure cases suddenly spiked in August, a new report shows.

Lenders filed 238 foreclosures last month in Palm Beach County, up 10 percent from a year earlier, according to the RealtyTrac listing firm. Broward filings jumped 26 percent.

Scheduled auctions — when a judge sets a date for a home to be repossessed — also increased in both counties.

Florida posted the nation’s highest foreclosure rate for the 11th consecutive month. One in every 400 homes in the Sunshine State was in some stage of foreclosure, almost three times the national average, RealtyTrac said.

“It’s still safe to say we’re past the worst of the foreclosure crisis, but there’s still some messiness in dealing with lingering foreclosures, and we may see more evidence of that in the second half of this year and into next year,” Daren Blomquist, a vice president at RealtyTrac, said Wednesday.

RealtyTrac, based in Irvine, Calif., monitors public records for three types of foreclosures: new cases, scheduled auctions and bank repossessions.

Blomquist said lenders appear to be adjusting to a 2013 Florida law designed to speed up the foreclosure process.

The law requires banks to have their paperwork in order before they file, and that initially led to the unintended consequence of fewer cases filed, industry analysts said. Now, lenders may be catching up on cases that once would have been filed more quickly.

Not all new filings will end up in foreclosure, however. In some cases, lenders will agree to let the delinquent owners sell for less than they owe. Regardless, frustrated buyers are clamoring for more properties.

“There’s a tremendous lack of inventory in the marketplace, and I’m seeing it across the board in all price ranges,” said Lex Levinrad, principal of the Distressed Real Estate Institute, a club for investors that meets regularly in Boca Raton and Deerfield Beach.

Skyrocketing home values caused many buyers to overextend themselves during the housing boom of 2000 to 2005. They took out short-term, adjustable-rate mortgages that eventually reset with much higher interest rates, leading to a wave of delinquencies.

When housing bottomed in 2011, buyers rushed back to the market, raising prices that helped formerly “underwater” borrowers avoid foreclosure. The improved employment picture also has kept many people in their homes.

“The general economy is better, and while it may not be a great economy, it’s a lot better than it was two or three years ago,” said Jerron Kelley, a Boca Raton real estate lawyer who practices throughout South Florida.

Meanwhile, after years of foreclosure backlogs, existing cases are moving swiftly through the courts, observers say.

Jerry Tepps, a foreclosure defense lawyer in Palm Beach and Broward counties, said courts are hiring retired judges and administrators to “make things happen.”

Tepps has a few cases that will be resolved this year, only months after they were filed.

“It used to be three or four years before they were over with,” he said. “The court system has become much more aggressive in applying resources than it ever has before.”